Glass recycling at breaking point

Western Bay recycling businesses are facing difficult decisions this year as their profits plummet.From January 1, Perry Environmental's recyclable glass income has dropped from $60 to just $8 per tonne because of an oversupply of glass in the marketplace.

The cost of transporting glass to the processor in Auckland has remained at $20 per tonne, resulting in a $12 net loss per tonne.Perry transfer station area manager Jeff McLaughlin was unsure what would happen to its glass recycling service, fearing the glass may end up in landfills instead of being remade into glass bottles and jars."What else do you do with it?" he said.

"It's real tough with glass. We are looking at crushing it and will have a look at what other options are viable," Mr McLaughlin told the Bay of Plenty Times.

Perry operates transfer stations in Greerton and Te Maunga on lease from the city council is one of three glass recycling companies in the Western Bay. The other two are All Brite Industries and Environmental Green Bins.

All glass collected from the Western Bay is sorted by Tauranga's All Brite Industries which sends it to ACI, New Zealand's only glass manufacturer in Auckland.

The glass is then finely sorted at Visy Glass and transferred next door to ACI to be remanufactured.

All Brite manager Cathryn Combs said glass prices had fallen because ACI was being given too much of it.

Miss Combs insisted All Brite was committed to finding an alternative economically viable option for recycling glass, saying it would be a "disaster" if glass ended up in landfills.

"We have to find markets to do it. It stinks but we don't have a choice. We want to make it work," said Miss Combs.

All Brite - which has branches in Tauranga, Auckland, Napier, Palmerston North, Gisborne, and Wellington - is working towards exporting glass to overseas markets, with particular focus on the Asian market.

Manager of glass processor Visy Glass, Jim Glass, said collection companies faced a difficult choice whether to seek out new markets for the glass or to wait for a proposed expansion to the Auckland manufacturer.

ACI can currently process only 70 per cent of glass collected nationally.

A plan to install a third oven at the ACI plant by the end of next year is awaiting approval. The new oven would mean the factory could recycle all of the glass collected in New Zealand.

"The glass industry is going through a lot of flux at the moment," said Mr Glass. "The major issue is collectors' insecurity of what happens if the oven goes in or doesn't."

The decrease in the value of recyclable glass comes just as more people are taking up recycling habits.

About 1000 people dropped off their rubbish to be recycled at Maleme St or Te Maunga transfer stations on the Wednesday before Christmas - the highest amount ever handled in one day.

The volume of glass delivered to Maleme St increased from 56 tonnes in December 2004 to 82 tonnes for December 2005.

The transfer station also processed record volumes of cardboard, scrap metal, and paper.

Mr McLaughlin said people were realising that by sorting their waste and dropping off recyclable materials for free, they were saving on disposing of rubbish at the dump.

Environmental Green Bins works on the same principle.

By providing separate recycling, composting and rubbish services Environmental Green Bins encourages customers to sort waste themselves, resulting in reduced volumes.

The firm's income is derived from bin collection fees, not returns on recyclable materials.

Owner/operator Derek Cecil said paper is the only recyclable material to return a "marginal" profit. Green Bins does not receive any income from the glass it passes on to All Brite Industries.

Recycle cycle


* Sorted into colours.

*Transported to ACI Glass in Auckland.

* Glass rendered to its constituent particles.

* Remanufactured into new bottles and jars at ACI Glass.

600450 Glass recycling at breaking point
Date: 16 January 2006

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